WeWork India’s new rule helps employees move away from an ‘always on’ work culture


Amid the “always on” work culture, India Inc is slowly realising there’s a need for downtime. It may be a long way till ‘right to disconnect’ becomes a reality in India, but a startup company — WeWork — has taken the first steps in that direction.

WeWork India has come up with a guideline for employees, according to which they are not obligated to respond to emails from 7pm till 9am, and during weekends.

A co-working space with an employee strength of 421 across India, WeWork has come up with this email guideline under a larger work-life integration mission.

WeWork India HR director Surabhi Washishth said, “We want to encourage our employees to spend time with their families/friends or invest in a hobby to unwind after a day of hard work. By introducing this guideline, we are also urging our employees to be more productive in their work days — dial it down post-7pm and hustle smarter.” Washishth, however, said if there is something that needs urgent attention, one can text/WhatsApp/call the person who needs to respond.

“In the fast times that we live today, striking a balance between work and life in general is often looked at in a desirous manner. We are all looking for that window of opportunity wherein no unread emails beckon us nor a deadline hangs over the head. As a country that’s expected to have the youngest workforce in the world by 2020 (Future of Work report by the World Economic Forum), it is highly imperative that we learn to draw the line, and strive to attain a balance between work and personal life,” said Washishth.

Two years ago, France passed a law on the right to disconnect from technology after office hours. Earlier this year, NCP MP Supriya Sule introduced the right to disconnect bill. However, organisations are on their own coming up with initiatives to ensure it’s not all work for employees.Hindustan Unilever (HUL) and Pidilite Industries discourage employees from staying late at office.

HUL’s ‘Prevention of Late Working Hours Policy’ lays out guidelines to be followed if, in an exceptional circumstance, an individual needs to stay back. An email is sent to the individual with a copy to their line manager, the next day, to ensure the line manager supports the team in managing work.

Pidilite Industries president (HR) Rahul Sinha said, “At around 8pm every day, we take a round of the office to see if anybody is working late. If we find someone repeatedly working till late, we have a chat with his/her boss and ask them to review the employee’s workload. Similarly, if somebody wants to work on a Saturday, they need to take special permission from HR.” Pidilite is also offering employees one day per week as “work from home”. “These initiatives have emerged from our ‘listening’ culture. We believe trust, empathy, transparency and maintaining high ethical standards are important,” said Sinha.

Globally, companies like Daimler and Volkswagen had come up with auto-delete of emails sent to employees on a holiday to prevent the stress of a flooded inbox when they returned to work. A 24/7 work culture, fuelled by technological innovations, has led to enhanced levels of stress and anxiety, high burnout rate and poor work-life balance, according to Shital Kakkar Mehra, a business etiquette and cross-cultural coach.

“Today, employees respond to emails as they either live in the fear of missing out (tomorrow), of losing their jobs or they are addicted to devices. Either way, their brain gets no downtime,” said Kakkar.

Although a total ban may not be feasible, Kakkar said one way to come around the situation is to show maturity when sending after-work emails or messages. A second option is to shorten the workday of employees by the number of hours they are expected to work from home.

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